Jesse Cook plays The Rogue Theatre
Jesse Cook's newest album — "One World," released early last year on the Entertainment One label — exemplifies the best of the guitar virtuoso's music.
His first album since he released his "Blue Guitar Sessions" in 2012 is another huge step for the Paris-born, Toronto-raised flamenco player. The smooth, languid light jazz on "Blue Guitar" showed another side to the nouveau flamenco the guitar master is known for.
"One World" finds Cook back to the artistic roots that made his 2008 "Frontiers" and 2009 "The Rumba Foundation" such critically acclaimed successes.
“Over the years, I’ve taken my music and tried to cross-pollinate it with music from different parts of the world,” Cook says in his biography at www.jessecook.com. “For the 2003 album 'Nomad,' I went to Cairo and recorded with musicians there. On 'The Rumba Foundation,' I went to Colombia, and worked with musicians from Cuba, as well. On the 1998 'Vertigo,' I went down to Lafayette, La., and recorded with Buckwheat Zydeco. For me, the question has always been: Where did you go? Where did you take your guitar?”
Cook changed course for "One World," his ninth studio album. After traveling to exotic places for many years in pursuit of inspiration, he stayed home and worked in his studio. Instead of lineups of foreign performers, he relied on his own devices, and instead of exploring flamenco, classical, rumba, world beat, pop, blues and jazz genres, he united them.
Cook and his band — Nicolas Hernandez on guitar, Chris Church on violin, accordion and duduk player (a double-reed woodwind flute, Dennis Mohammed on bass and Juan Carlos Medrano on percussion — will perform at 7 p.m. Sunday, Jan. 31, at The Rogue Theatre, 143 S.E. H St., Grants Pass. Cook's newest album, "One World," was released early last year. Tickets are $35 in advance and can be purchased online at roguetheatre.com or by calling 541-471-1316. Tickets will be $38 the day of the show.
Cook's new album is a natural progression of all his previous releases that use exotic instruments and rhythms. From the first track — the rumba-flavored "Shake" to "Tommy and Me," the latter featuring beautiful interplay with guitarist Tommy Emmanuel — the sound takes a journey that is Cook's most erotic and complex.
“On this record, it’s not really about going someplace,” Cook says in his bio. The album cover represents an image of a vast, spreading ancient tree. “The idea is that there really is just one world. If you pull your focus back far enough, you start to see all music as being branches of the same tree. They’re all connected to the same trunk from way back.
“For example, my strange way of playing guitar is a hybrid of styles. I was a classical guitarist as a kid, and I studied flamenco and then I studied jazz. So there are three musical and guitar traditions in my background. And one of the forms I use, rumba flamenco, is itself a hybrid created in the 1800s when sailors were coming back to Spain from Cuba, having heard these Cuban rhythms. And here I am, 150 years later, taking it and mixing it back with modern music and seeing where it takes me. Music is a constantly evolving thing.”
With Cook's creative, homemade approach, "One World" begins another chapter in the guitarist's and composer's journey. This time his destination is the digital realm. To create the emotive melodies, fluid grooves and rich sonic tapestries, he used technology. The result is 11 instrumentals with programmed beats, dusty electronic textures interwoven with syncopated hand claps, bass lines and percussion. Sitar and violin share the space with synthesizers and sound effects.
The credit can be given to a precocious young assistant, according to Cook's website.
“I have two small children, and my son is forever trying to get on my computer," Cook says. "If I’m in my studio, he’ll come in and sit down and just start pushing buttons and making things happen in the recording program I use. At first I was terrified he would mess things up. But he actually got really good at poking around. I started going, ‘Wow, what’s that? What are you doing? Let me in there!’ I started writing tunes using weird loops and metallic and electronic sounds. And I found myself interested in taking what I do and putting it in a more modern context. I’ve leaned heavily on ancient instruments. But for this record, I put those instruments side by side with modern sounds — unabashedly so.
“We’re all involved with our computers in a big way, though we malign them,” Cook says. “People complain social media is ruining communication and that people just text instead of call. But love and romance and imagination and art also happen through computers. People fall in love online. People talk to loved ones on Skype. People write great love letters on the computer, create great works of art, great compositions. It has become this integral part of human expression, and I wanted to give it a voice in what I was doing.”
And in that process, Cook — who hadn’t planned to travel for this album — found himself in the most exotic locale imaginable.
“I wanted to make what I was doing feel like Constantinople, the ancient city that existed between the East and the West," he says. "It was the meeting point of all these great cultures — Africa, Europe, Asia, India. I want my music to be that place: The Constantinople of sound. A place where ancient sounds meet with modern ones and pass though that port.”